Re: Is my foreshadowing bad or are readers just dense?

#1
I've recently wrapped up my first arc and I've been getting some comments about my MC having a "fake out death" when I thought that I had foreshadowed his methods for survival pretty heavily. Now, I love my readers but this seems a little weird to me.

For context, my MC is facing an enemy that's far too strong for him to overcome (this is a cultivation novel). He's pulled out all the stops and he's about to get the upper hand but then his opponent advances in the middle of the fight. Now he's almost certainly going to die, so he himself advances to the next stage on an imperfect foundation. This doesn't help him fight his opponent in any way but rather gives him a way out, as cultivators gain a soul to retreat into at that stage. 

He gets stabbed just as he finishes advancing, and I thought that I made it clear that he's made it out alive. 

I made sure to show some enemies die and retreat into their souls in earlier chapters, and there's even a time where the MCs question the soul of a slain opponent for information. I also mentioned in passing multiple times that the MC would dread having to advance on an imperfect foundation, as that could leave his cultivation crippled. I even have him theorize that that's something his opponent could do if MC managed to kill him. 

Am I just bad at foreshadowing, or is that just how readers are sometimes?

Link to my story in case anyone is interested. Death happens in chapter 54 and "reveal" that he's not dead happens in chapter 55. The fic in my signature is the rewritten version - don't click that one.
https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/31554/among-giants-the-precipice-of-power-draft-1

Re: Is my foreshadowing bad or are readers just dense?

#3

VMJaskiernia Wrote: I think you made it pretty clear that it was a possibility in your world. There are several examples. You even say clearly that he is *not* committing suicide in that chapter.

Readers are smart. But sometimes they gloss over something or it doesn't quite click. Or they just don't like 'fake out' deaths, even if they're an established part of the story.

thankies vic. also join VC

Re: Is my foreshadowing bad or are readers just dense?

#4
The uproar might also be that he manages to do all that during a fight for his life. Doesn't it take time, concentration and effort? That it's just '*poof*, I fake the next stage in the middle of a fight and now I can do this immediately without any practice also in the middle of a fight' feels a bit off. It sounds like it's borderline divine intervention and not something 'a non-op protagonist without crazy luck' would pull off

Re: Is my foreshadowing bad or are readers just dense?

#5
Oskatat Wrote: The uproar might also be that he manages to do all that during a fight for his life. Doesn't it take time, concentration and effort? That it's just '*poof*, I fake the next stage in the middle of a fight and now I can do this immediately without any practice also in the middle of a fight' feels a bit off. It sounds like it's borderline divine intervention and not something 'a non-op protagonist without crazy luck' would pull off

He's been trained extensively for the advancement and he's already mastered the spiritual "technique" needed (technique in quotes because it's not a technique in the cultivation sense, rather a skill... Not a skill in the litrpg sense though >.>).

The actual bridge between stages in my universe doesn't take long to pass, and his opponent was standing there letting him do it because he thought MC was comitting suicide to save face. Here, if you really want context just read the actual chapter.

I actually put the "non-OP protagonists without crazy luck" there because there were too many people complaining that the MCs weren't OP. Like I said though, if you want more context, just read the actual chapter.

Re: Is my foreshadowing bad or are readers just dense?

#8
Its the authors job to see to it that the contexts, foreshadows, and plot progressions are clear to the reader. Clear enough that simply by reading forward through the text, they understand the activities and thrust of the dynamics they should. Sometimes this means clarity and direction must be improved or highlighted further.  Howsoever this is accomplished, you must meet the mind of the reader fairly fully.  Scenarios, say in a cozy or mystery might, by the authors intention and direction, provide for a eureka moment or provide a surprise, so on. But only where and when intended. You could call this being manipulative, and so it is. You must control the reader's experience. What you envision must end echoed in the mind of the reader, whatever it takes. Often enough feedback points out where, for you audience, this needs more clarity. This is a good thing. A book is an experience you are offering, not an IQ test.

Re: Is my foreshadowing bad or are readers just dense?

#9
I'm just going to add here that we are writing webnovels. Alot of people just skim through webnovels compared to let's say when reading physical books. Also chapters have a gap between each release date. You may have foreshadowed it in earlier chapters but you have to think when was the release date of that? Perhaps a couple of weeks ago or a month or longer. The reader would have read alot of other books (watched shows or did alot of other stuff) during that time period that it's very reasonable that it has slipped out of their mind already. A physical book won't have that problem if the reader consumed it all in one sitting. 

So these are some considerations in the medium we are using when it comes to foreshadowing. 

Re: Is my foreshadowing bad or are readers just dense?

#10
You seem to be trying to have your cake and eat it, too.

At first glance, the chapter's narration seems to push the reader to take the risk and the death seriously. Your narrator is tightly linked to your protagonist and doesn't suggest it's a fake-out openly. The ending of the chapter, likewise, is delivered in a way that suggests a death is happening.

If it's meant to be a trick on some level, but one that you've prepared the reader for, that's fine! It worked. Some people saw it coming, some were fooled because they'd skimmed. But you can't then complain if the odd reader feels tricked. Tricking is what you were doing, foreshadowing or no. You tried to make it so at least some readers would see through the trick, but the trick is still there.

If, on the other hand, this was not meant to be a trick for the reader on any level, and EVERY reader was supposed to understand exactly what the protag was doing as it was happening... well, it doesn't seem to be written that way. It looks like a trick, at least by the protag.

There's a deeper question here than whether or not you set up this scene properly. One complaint I'm seeing in the comments is that the fake-out death as a device had already been used recently in your story. If that's true, then having two of them in close succession, even one that the reader is in on, could be repetitive. The problem isn't foreshadowing, it's pacing and repetition, and making sure that there's a feeling of genuine stakes.

My guess is that the complaint is that fake deaths can feel low-stakes, regardless of the circumstances of the faking.

Re: Is my foreshadowing bad or are readers just dense?

#11

ferdielance Wrote: You seem to be trying to have your cake and eat it, too.

At first glance, the chapter's narration seems to push the reader to take the risk and the death seriously. Your narrator is tightly linked to your protagonist and doesn't suggest it's a fake-out openly. The ending of the chapter, likewise, is delivered in a way that suggests a death is happening.

If it's meant to be a trick on some level, but one that you've prepared the reader for, that's fine! It worked. Some people saw it coming, some were fooled because they'd skimmed. But you can't then complain if the odd reader feels tricked. Tricking is what you were doing, foreshadowing or no. You tried to make it so at least some readers would see through the trick, but the trick is still there.

If, on the other hand, this was not meant to be a trick for the reader on any level, and EVERY reader was supposed to understand exactly what the protag was doing as it was happening... well, it doesn't seem to be written that way. It looks like a trick, at least by the protag.

There's a deeper question here than whether or not you set up this scene properly. One complaint I'm seeing in the comments is that the fake-out death as a device had already been used recently in your story. If that's true, then having two of them in close succession, even one that the reader is in on, could be repetitive. The problem isn't foreshadowing, it's pacing and repetition, and making sure that there's a feeling of genuine stakes.

My guess is that the complaint is that fake deaths can feel low-stakes, regardless of the circumstances of the faking.

I'll take that into consideration. Certainly seems to need a couple reworks, I'd wager. I definitely wasn't trying to trick the reader, haha.

Re: Is my foreshadowing bad or are readers just dense?

#12

Temple Wrote: I'm just going to add here that we are writing webnovels. Alot of people just skim through webnovels compared to let's say when reading physical books. Also chapters have a gap between each release date. You may have foreshadowed it in earlier chapters but you have to think when was the release date of that? Perhaps a couple of weeks ago or a month or longer. The reader would have read alot of other books (watched shows or did alot of other stuff) during that time period that it's very reasonable that it has slipped out of their mind already. A physical book won't have that problem if the reader consumed it all in one sitting. 

So these are some considerations in the medium we are using when it comes to foreshadowing.

Very good point. I've been writing this too much like a book, and less like a webnovel. Will take a different approach in the future.

Re: Is my foreshadowing bad or are readers just dense?

#13
A lot of good points in here. I believe you are looking at while your chapters are spaced 2-3 days apart, some chapters were possibly taken down and redone? Your 11-13 are like 14-19 days old while everything else was 3 months.

Also, people may tend to read a lot of similar works in a genre they enjoy, especially with the time delay between chapters. This can muddy the waters.

While you did allow for a path to surviving and mentioned that the protagonist was capable of questioning the souls of enemies. Was there much surrounding them coming back weaker? Fought and defeated Cultivator X but had to flee, only to find Cultivator X rear their head again in a weakened state?

With the essential back door that is now available, have you gone over what constitutes 'finality' at that newest level? So that your readers have the pieces of:
1. A soul exists
2. Enemies have retreated within their soul space
3. Enemies that have not been 'finished' have come back to haunt them, thus laying the foundation for what the new 'finality' is
4. Go through a power up stage, focusing on the crystallization/condensing of the soul space in a hurry
5. Death sequence where 4 has been established but 3 was not completed, thus leaving a path for haunting but in a weakened form or done to loosen meridians or bringing the body/soul closer together by feeling what it is to be apart from them.